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Apollonius Pictus


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Apollonius pictus. An illustrated late antique romance around 1000.

Egy illusztrált késő antik regény 1000 körül.

Edited by Anna Boreczky and András Németh. OSZK, Budapest, 2011.

ISBN 978-963-200-600-0. 184 pages, 104 illustrations + facsimile (8 pages)

This volume gives the reader side by side a facsimile and a man-

ifold account of a thousand-year-old manuscript (Budapest, Na-

tional Széchényi Library, Cod. Lat. 4), the oldest known illustrat-

ed copy of the late antique Latin adventure romance “History of

Apollonius, King of Tyre” (Historia Apollonii). The vicissitudes of

king Apollonius, his daughter Tarsia, and her mother Lucina

across the Mediterranean have enjoyed exceptional popularity

since the early Middle Ages: among others, this story inspired

Shakespeare’s Pericles. The narrative cycle depicting the adven-

ture story is not only the most important evidence for the illus-

trated late antique romances, an almost entirely lost genre, but

also a unique example of the narrative book illustrations at the

turn of the first millennium. In addition to the thirty-eight uncol-

oured pen-and-ink drawings depicting the adventures of the plot

in a cartoon-like cinematic narration, the fragmentary Budapest

manuscript comprises half of a very early and valuable redaction

of the text. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the drawings

were glossed mostly in Old Saxonian, which gives a unique in-

sight into the early reception of the romance in Germany and

the peculiar sense of monastic humour. The reader has a

chance to explore all these details and discover new layers of in-

terpretation in the facsimile.

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A richly illustrated commentary volume encourages the adven-

ture of exploration with studies in English, German, and French.

An international group of experts, Xavier Barral i Altet, Anna

Boreczky, Herbert L. Kessler, András Németh, Andreas Nievergelt

and Beatrice Radden Keefe investigate the tortuous history of

the manuscript up to the present, its unique blend of late antique

and Ottonian visual language, the successively alternating prac-

tices between illustrator and scribe in the joint transmission of

depictions and text, and a full account of its glosses. The appen-

dix invites the reader to continue unfolding multiple layers of the

manuscript and includes the first full critical transcription of its

Latin text.

Orders should be addressed to [email protected]

Costs: 30 Euro + postage

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National Széchényi Library